At the heart of the crusade to censor books in American schools

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At the heart of the crusade to censor books in American schools

Jennifer Pippin is campaigning to have books with content that she describes as inappropriate removed from school libraries.

Parent groups in the United States have been working for months to ban books from school libraries because they believe they are exposing children to pornography, violence and critical race theory. A very organized movement, especially in Florida, which has already had hundreds of books removed from the shelves.

Moms for Liberty is one of the groups behind this movement to ban books from school libraries. The organization, which first established itself to denounce health measures during COVID-19, has branched out into parental control of education.

We're not trying to banish or burn books, we're trying to get children's books out of their hands that deal with critical race theory and pornography, said Jennifer Pippin, an activist for the group. p>

She is quite proud of having succeeded in having certain titles permanently banned by the Indian River school board.

Thanks to the new law on parental rights and education, there are 200 more that we will review from the first page to the last. If it talks about incest, rape, pedophilia or critical race theory, they will also be removed, she says.

An example. In the bookAll Boys Aren't Blue by George Johnson, a work removed from the shelves in many American schools, there is a description of a scene of sodomy. In another book the group is trying to get banned, Girl to Girl, there is a lesbian oral sex scene.

Even though these books are not found in the children's section of school libraries, members of Moms for Liberty are concerned that younger children will be drawn to the covers and decide to dive into these books which they describe as dangerous.

A way of doing things that infuriates Kia Brand, a mother who lives in the Florida city of Sarasota. Moms for Liberty has a method where they write down the page numbers, choose the paragraphs and present that to the parents, who don't even have to read the book and then go and complain to the school boards to have those works banned, she denounces.

Kia Brand and her 11-year-old daughter, Tallulah, defended one of the books threatened with banning by the school board in Sarasota, Florida.

Stung by this move, Kia Brand went to defend Stamped, by authors Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, a book that was the subject of a parent complaint. She showed up at a Sarasota School Board meeting with her 11-year-old daughter Tallulah. It makes me furious because they are trying to ban all these books just because someone has a problem with certain words, explains the young student.

For his mother, it was necessary that they oppose the banning of this book. Knowing that, if banned, it would open the floodgates for other books to be challenged. Besides, the reason this book was challenged is because the parent thought it was racist. But this book is really about racism, how it shaped America, and how not to be racist, she explains.

Tallulah and Kia Brand's message to dissuade school board members from banning this book has paid off, as the book is no longer contested. However, 11-13 year olds will need parental consent if they want to read it.

Author and journalist Kyle Spencer has just published Raise Them Right , which shows the growing power of right-wing groups who are making censorship of issues that appeal to them a priority.

The radical right tries to normalize ideas that are very radical. Its members do this by having a large presence on school campuses and presenting themselves as normal people with normal ideas, when in fact they have a supremacist-like ideology. It's very un-American, says Kyle Spencer.

The wind of control over what is taught in schools and colleges has been blowing strongly in Florida since last year.

Recently, the College Board, a non-profit organization that oversees what is taught in colleges, backtracked on a pilot study of African American history that contained some elements of critical theory. of race, a discipline that studies the impact of racial inequalities in the functioning of American institutions.

These elements have been erased from the course, in reaction to pressure from right-wing groups and groups of parents who are leading more and more in the field of education.< /p>

Governor Ron DeSantis is a powerful ally of right-wing groups who want to increasingly dictate the content taught in schools.

In their crusade, groups like Moms for Liberty, which incidentally have great financial means, have a sizeable ally in the person of Ron DeSantis with his anti-woke law .

This law gives more powers to parents and threatens to punish teachers who make available to children books designated as promoting a different sexual orientation or critical race theory.

Starting from scratch, Moms for Liberty now has a presence in 44 states with over 120,000 members in over 300 chapters.

Jennifer Pippin has nothing but good words for Ron DeSantis, the best governor Florida has ever had and who should be followed as an example by all governors in the country for his control of education.

When asked what drives Jennifer Pippin and other band members to censor these books, the answer is quite simple.

“I see parents who have allowed their children to read these sexually explicit books, and a few years later these young people have mental problems or don't have good relationships because they think it's okay to do cocaine or have sex or multiple partners, as they have read. »

— Jennifer Pippin, from Moms for Liberty

Some of the books banned or threatened with banning by school boards in the United States

Even if her thesis is not supported by concrete examples, she remains convinced that the children are influenced by what they read in books.

If you read books that talk about drug use without any respect from the police or talk about the issue of racial criticism of the police, well, you start to think that a certain race is superior to another and that white supremacy is indeed an issue, she argues.

In the Sarasota bookstore frequented by Tallulah and her mother Kia, a space has been created with the books most often banned by school boards in the country. There are works by Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou, Jack London and, of course, Stamped, the book saved by Tallulah and her mother who narrowly escaped the ban by their school board.

Tallulah Brand reads her favorite book, “The Hunger Games”, one of the most censored books by school boards in the United States.

At just 11 years old, Tallulah can't be fooled. She is reading her favorite book, The Hunger Games, one of the most censored books in school libraries because of its supposedly inappropriate content that would be anti-family and touch on the occult sciences. If he had to be banned by his school board, she would defend him ardently.

She regrets that many targeted books affect the LGBTQ community. Often, we choose a book because we can relate to a character, such as a character who represents the LGBTQ community. If you take out all the targeted books, children and young people will think: “Nobody knows what I'm going through.”

Jennifer Cousins ​​of the Florida Freedom Read Project, which fights book censorship in schools, says conservative groups are very well funded.

They can mobilize in the blink of an eye to rent huge buses, bring people from different states or different districts or even bring them by plane for certain events. We don't have that much money, she admits.

In the meantime, Tallulah and Kia Brand are keeping their fingers crossed that the fight against book bans will work. I hope that there will be remedies that will allow us to go back and that will rule that we cannot ban books, that we must put them back on the shelves and that banning works cannot be done. is not a solution, believes Kia.

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